Importing disposable tableware from China to the US

Plastics, used daily around the world, undergo slow decomposition. Especially single-use plastic plates, straws, cutlery, and similar items are contributing to severe environmental contamination. In China, the government is trying to limit the use of food contact articles made of plastic. Fortunately, there are many alternatives. More and more Chinese manufacturers of plastic items (responsible for almost 30% of global plastic production) are choosing biodegradable materials obtained from renewable natural resources. Below you will find US duty rates on disposable tableware from China and other important information when importing this kind of products.

disposable tableware from China

Production areas of disposable tableware in China

The most significant number of producers of food contact packaging is in such cities as Shanghai, Qingdao, Dongguan, Wenzhou, and Guangzhou. Manufacturers from Dongguan, Guangzhou, Weifang, Shenzhen are leading in eco-packaging. You can find many companies providing environmentally friendly tableware in Guangzhou, Xiamen, and Changsha. The largest concentrations of this type of company are in Shantung, Zhejiang, and Guangdong, highly developed provinces of China.

Trade fairs in China

There is probably no better place to find a business partner than a trade fair. The following list contains selected shows, during which you can find products that have contact with food, including ecological packaging, disposable tableware from China and similar goods.

  • The International Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Exhibition

Date: October 30 – November 1, 2019

Location: Beijing – China International Exhibition Center, Chaoyang, Beijing, China

Official website:

  • Shanghai World of Packaging – SWOP

Date: November 25-28, 2019

Location: Shanghai New International Expo Centre(SNIEC), Shanghai, China

Official website:

  • China Green Food Exposition (CGFE)

Date: November 29 – December 1, 2019

Location: Zhengzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center (ZZICEC), Zhengdong, Zhengzhou, China

Official website:

  • LOHAS Expo

Date: February 21-23, 2020

Location: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong

Official website:

  • Food Ingredients China

Date: March 17-19, 2020

Location: Shanghai – National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC), Shanghai, China

Official website:

  • China (Beijing International Organic Green Food & Ingredients Exhibition

Date: April 15-17, 2020

Location: Beijing – China International Exhibition Center, Chaoyang, Beijing, China

Official website:

  • International Processing & Packaging Exhibition – ProPak China

Date: June 22-24, 2020

Location: National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC), Shanghai, China

Official website:

  • Eco Expo Asia

Date: October 28-31, 2020

Location: Hong Kong AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong

Official website:

US duty on disposable tableware from China

When importing goods from China, one should bear in mind due duties. The current rates of duty are in the HTS system, and it is recommended to check it before ordering goods. The table below presents selected products together with their codes and the corresponding amount of duty. It contains both plastic and environmentally friendly articles.

Article Heading/Subheading Rates of duty
  • Other: cups and round nested food containers
4823.69.00 0%
  • Molded or pressed articles of paper pulp: plates, bowls or cups and other
4823.70.00 0%
  • Trays, dishes, plates, cups and the like, of paper or paperboard of bamboo
4823.61.00 0 %
  • Cartons, boxes and cases, of corrugated paper or paperboard, sanitary food and beverage containers
4819.10.00 0 %
  • Other packing containers, sanitary food and beverage containers
4819.50.20 0 %
  • Wrapping paper: bag or sack paper and other
4804.31.40 0 %
  • Tableware, kitchenware, other household articles and hygienic or toilet articles, of plastics: plates, cups, saucers, soup bowls, cereal bowls, sugar bowls, creamers, gravy boats, serving dishes and platters
3924.10.20 6.5%
  • Tableware, kitchenware, other household articles and hygienic or toilet articles, of plastics: trays
3924.10.30 5.3%
  • Sacks and bags (including cones): of polymers of ethylene
3923.21.00 3%
  • Sacks and bags (including cones): of other plastics
3923.29.00 3%
  • Tubes, pipes and hoses, rigid: of other plastics
3917.29.00 3.1%
  • Carboys, bottles, flasks and similar articles
3923.30.00 3%

The list is by no means exhaustive. In matters of ongoing US-China trade war, some goods imported from China to the US are subject to an additional 25% tariffs. It applies to all the articles on the list above, except subheading 3924.10. If the product has an existing 3% duty, the new rate would be 28%. One should remember to take into consideration the special tariff.

Importing disposable tableware from China – importer’s obligations

Make sure you choose a trustworthy supplier. You should also prepare and gather the necessary documents.

The importer’s obligation is to place on the market a product that is safe for the customer. If you import or trade food contact materials and articles, you must comply with the relevant regulations.

In the US, the regulatory status of a food contact material or article is determined by the regulatory status of each substance that the material or article is made of. Each substance is regulated as an indirect food additive under the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR). A food contact material or article is compliant only if all food contact substances contained have got FDA clearances.

In the EU, a declaration of compliance is required. There is no such case in the US; however, customers may ask for an FDA letter of guaranty from manufacturers certifying the article is safe to use with food. There is no standard format for the letter, as it is a self-declaration.

Beware of FDA mark on the product – such label does not exist. Labeling requirements depend on the product, and there are many types of those. For example, a product sold in the US must have a country of origin label.

Products sold in California must comply with California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (also known as CA Prop 65). If the product contains chemicals included in the list, it has to have a warning label.

Products that come into contact with food – certifications

The BRC Standard is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized certification program. It is a product and process certification standard known for compliance with industry best practices. The certification is an internationally recognized mark of food safety and quality. It is a voluntary but beneficial certification.

Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000 is a certification accepted around the world, which scheme is based on a combination of ISO 22000 sector-specific PRP and FSSC additional requirements. It is a recognizable standard against which a food safety management system can be audited and certified. FSSC 22000 was given Global Recognition by the GFSI and other food safety schemes such as BRC or IFS. The certificate is not mandatory, though well received.

If you are interested in importing other goods than disposable tableware from China, check out our other articles on that topic.

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